In a theatre packed with supporters and patrons, Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre (FAST) announced its 2017 season; the company’s 30th and the first led by new artistic director Andrea Boyd.
“I am thrilled to announce the 30th anniversary season for Festival Antigonish,” Boyd said during the Jan. 27 launch event at the Bauer Theatre.
“I have picked a selection of plays that will engage our hearts and minds, make us laugh, and leave us longing for more. This company has a solid reputation across the country for excellence on stage and I cannot wait to work with this year’s superb cast to continue the tradition.”
The 2017 lineup will include three plays for the main stage series and one on the family stage.
“The season will include some of the finest and well-respected actors in Canada along with some talented upcoming artists, with all four plays running in repertory and culminating in a season finale that brings together the entire ensemble on stage,” a press release accompanying the launch noted.
The 2017 company includes; directors Mary Vingoe, Richie Wilcox and Andrea Boyd, and actors Francine Deschepper, Christian Murray, Jennifer Roberts, Hugh Thompson, Jeremy Webb, Naomi Vogt and Sansom Marchand.
“2017 will be a season of high theatricality, featuring plays that embrace the reality that they exist within the confines of the stage,” Boyd said. “[All] plays have comedic elements, yet are all different in tone, ranging from raucously funny to charming and poignant.”
Managing director Reema Fuller, also new to the company, echoed Boyd’s enthusiasm.
“I am excited to have this chance to work with Andrea. Her energy, creativity and passion shine through every time she talks about sharing the adventure of theatre with our audiences,” Fuller said.
“She has an incredible creative vision for our stage and I know it will resonate with theatre-goers, old and new … I can’t wait to kick-off our 30th season together.”
Fuller also noted some upcoming changes at Festival Antigonish, including a new and improved box office system, an enhanced website and digital presence, and regular communications with patrons and supporters.
“We are focused on enhancing our patrons’ experience; 30 years is no ordinary feat for a theatre company and we recognize that we owe it all to those who buy a ticket and walk through our doors to watch a play.”
Boyd talked about each play during the launch, starting with the season’s opener; The Hound of the Baskervilles.
“By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, one of the U.K.’s most exciting theatre companies whose sublimely ridiculous style of anarchic comedy has been compared to the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Monty Python,” she said.
Boyd talked more about the “spoof” based on one of Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes stories.
“This three-man version of the classic mystery is a rollicking spoof that is pure comedy,” she said.
“The three actors play 17 different characters, including the actors who originated the script. It uses physical and verbal humour, and, through it, stays true to the original story and has plenty of irreverent surprises.
“With silly comedy and slapstick, this play will attract a summer theatre crowd looking for a good time out at the theatre. Its inventive staging and wacky dialogue will surprise and delight, and I will have the pleasure of directing an amazing cast, featuring Christian Murray, Hugh Thompson and Jeremy Webb who will, no doubt, bring out the very best of the sublimely ridiculous world of The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
The play will run from July 13 to Aug. 26.
Next up she talked about Kingfisher Days by Susan Coyne.
“Kingfisher Days is perfect for summer theatre,” Boyd said.
“It is beautiful and ethereal and takes us back to a time before the busyness of our lives took hold. In this rural region of Nova Scotia, we certainly find many cottages and, like most places, we find ourselves busy with work, volunteerism and other activities.
“We live in the midst of nature, but can find it difficult to find the time to wander in the forest, or gaze out at the sea. Through charming and delightful storytelling, Kingfisher Days reminds us that, it’s OK to stop and, ‘see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower.’”
She talked about director Mary Vingoe.
“One of the country’s top theatre artists based in Halifax, she will direct a trio of the very finest actors in Canada; Francine Deschepper, Jennifer Roberts and Hugh Thompson will star.”
The play will run from July 20 to Aug. 26.
The final main stage play; “our grand finale” as described by Boyd, is Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl.
“When two actors with a history are thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama, they quickly lose touch with reality as the story onstage follows them offstage. Stage Kiss is a charming tale about what happens when lovers share a stage kiss – or when actors share a real one,” Boyd said, reading a description of the play as provided by promotional material.
“Sarah Ruhl is one of my favourite writers, and this very recent play is filled with her characteristic quirky characters and original dialogue,” she said. “Stage Kiss is a zany look at the conventions of theatre and the all too real problems it creates for its actors.
“Our 30th anniversary season main stage programming will end on a celebratory note with this contemporary romantic comedy which features a cast of seven, meaning that all the members of the Festival Antigonish company will fill the stage of the Bauer. I am thrilled to have the chance to direct Stage Kiss with this extraordinary cast.”
The play will run from Aug. 10 to Aug. 26.
The final play talked about was the family stage production Martha.
“Our family stage has always been a vital and integral part of our summer programming,” Boyd said. “This season’s selection is a play that I dearly love, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you.
“I saw this charming play, from Scotland, years ago, and I’m thrilled to be able to program it as part of our festival. Upcoming director Richie Wilcox, who is rapidly making a name for himself in the Atlantic Provinces and beyond, will direct our talented young company performers, Naomi Vogt and Sansom Marchand, in this lovely play that will be enjoyed by children and their parents.”
Martha will run from July 25 to Aug. 5.
The season opens July 13 with tickets going on sale in May.
For more information, visit www.festivalantigonish.com.